The Burghardt Lab in the College of Agricultural Science at The Pennsylvania State University is seeking a Postdoctoral Scholar to work on the genomics and evolutionary ecology of plant-microbe interactions in agroecosystems ( The postdoc will contribute to a funded NIFA grant, “Laying the Groundwork to Breed for Mutualisms: Tracking the Long-Term Adaptation of Nitrogen-Fixing Rhizobia to Alfalfa in Agricultural Fields.” This project aims to 1) translate genome sequencing methodologies to the field to measure seasonal and alfalfa-mediated evolutionary processes in established varietal trials, 2) test an evolution-informed phenotyping pipeline to measure the ability of alfalfa varieties to reward helpful strains, 3) identify rhizobial candidate genes underlying adaptation to alfalfa nodules in agricultural fields, competitive success across environmental variation, and nitrogen-fixation benefits for plants.

In addition, the postdoc will have the freedom to develop and pursue novel research interests and directions consistent with the lab theme of understanding plant-microbe-climate interactions in natural and managed landscapes. The postdoc will be provided mentorship and professional development opportunities tailored to their career goals.

Education and Experience:

Applicants must have a Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate in Biology, Plant Science, Agronomy, Microbiology, Genetics, Ecology and Evolution, or related field(s). This position requires excellent communication skills and experience implementing bioinformatic pipelines and performing statistical analysis on complex datasets. Preferred candidates will also have some of these strengths:

  • ability to conduct controlled environment or field experiments with plants or microbes;
  • experience using bioinformatic pipelines to analyze whole-genome sequence data;
  • proficiency with statistical analysis, including generalized linear models & multivariate statistics;
  • a background in functional, population, quantitative, or ecological genetics;
  • evidence of prior success in working in diverse teams and independently;
  • a demonstrated interest in mentoring students, leading projects, and designing outreach;
  • and a track record of peer-reviewed publication.

Initially, this limited-term appointment is funded for one year from the date of hire with the option of reappointment for additional years conditional on satisfactory performance and the availability of funds. Before the effective date of hire, applicants must be able to provide evidence that all requirements have been met for completion of the Ph.D. and pass standard background checks. This position includes a competitive salary and generous benefits.

The Burghardt Lab is located at the Penn State University Park Campus in Central Pennsylvania, a walkable/bikeable community in the Allegheny Mountains. The geographic setting is one of the agricultural valleys situated between tree-covered ridges with abundant opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Application Information:

Application review will begin immediately, and the position will remain open until a suitable candidate is identified. Interested applicants should apply through the official Workday Recruiting System. When prompted for a CV, please upload a single pdf titled: “lastname_Postdoc_BurghardtLab.pdf” that includes (i) a cover letter detailing scientific interests, qualifications, future goals, and preferred start date, (ii) a CV, (iii) contact information for three references, and (iv) pdfs of 1-2 publications. Please also email the compiled pdf directly to Dr. Liana Burghardt ( with ‘Postdoc Application’ as the subject. Reach out to Liana with additional questions.

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